Being a parent of young children is hard work. I don’t think there’s a tougher challenge I’ve faced than a crying baby at 3:00 a.m., and I’ve sat for the New York State Bar Exam! But being a parent of young children, or children at any age, is also deeply gratifying. We take so much care in raising our children, in selecting their school, their extracurricular activities, and planning fun vacations. Why is it then, that when it comes to protecting their futures if something should happen to both natural parents, so many parents are willfully ignorant?
In the State of New York, the only place you can designate a guardian for your children, if both natural parents pass away while the children are minors, is in a validly executed Last Will and Testament. Why then do more parents not take this relatively simple step to protect what’s most precious to them? In a recent LegalZoom survey, 74.4 percent of parents still did not have a Last Will and Testament, despite the fact that 79 percent of parents noted the importance of creating this legal document. Quite shocking, especially considering that the company conducting this survey offers Wills for something like $99.00.
I understand the constraints associated with modern parenting. It is probably difficult to get to a lawyer’s office, find time off from work, get someone to watch the kids, come up with the couple hundred dollars to pay the lawyer, and deal with thinking about your and your spouse’s premature demise. But, as I watch my boys play this morning, I am reminded of how thankful I am that my wife and I took this step early on when our oldest son was born, and then revisited our decisions after the birth of our second son.
I don’t think many parents realize that without selecting a guardian for their children in their Last Will and Testament, the choice of guardian would be left to the Court system, in the event of the premature demise of both parents. This is an outcome we all surely would like to avoid and exercise some control over if given the opportunity. Selecting a guardian can be a difficult process, I know for my wife and I we struggled over this decision because we felt the importance of it, and did not want to make an imprudent choice.
One thing is clear, the absence of a plan is no plan at all. I don’t understand why more young parents aren’t running to get this done. Even if you want to throw together a haphazard Will on LegalZoom and hope you sign it correctly, that would be better than no plan at all. So please, I implore you, even if you do not come see our firm, please go see an attorney and get Wills in place for both natural parents of minor children. Being a parent is hard work, but you want to be able to choose who will raise your children if you’re not around to do it anymore.